Monday, February 25, 2013

Eco-tastrophe! How MPs in the pay of subsidised eco-firms set insane new carbon targets that send your bills sky-rocketing... and drag us to a new Dark Age

David Rose is truthtelling in Britain's Daily Mail once again

Like all MPs, Tim Yeo is paid £65,000 a year. But he never has to make do with just that. Last year alone, three ‘green’ companies paid the Conservative MP for South Suffolk £135,970.

For this, he usually did just a few hours’ work a month. Yet he may be the firms’ most valuable asset, as Mr Yeo is chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, and so plays a key role in shaping the green economy in which his sometime employers – AFC Energy, Eco City Vehicles and TMO Renewables – operate.

And he may be about to perform his most valuable service yet.

Mr Yeo has moved an extraordinary amendment to the Energy Bill that would set a crippling and binding target for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by generating power in 2030. It would transform the electricity industry and bring huge benefits to the business sector, which has so generously rewarded Mr Yeo.

For the rest of us, however, the effects will be very different. It will cause already high energy bills to soar further and could lead to more power cuts. The effect on business is likely to be even more dramatic.

Yet despite the considerable drawbacks, the amendment is likely to be passed into law. Following intense campaigning by an alliance of dozens of green pressure groups and renewable-energy firms, the move has won the support of Labour, many backbench Liberal Democrats and some Tories, which may be enough to push it through Parliament.

‘Even without the amendment, the long-term consequences of the Bill will be horrible,’ said Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University, one of Britain’s leading experts on energy economics. He issued a strong warning the ‘surreal’ amendment could spell the end of British  industry. ‘It’s a recipe for deindustrialisation,’ he said.


MYTH The world is continually getting warmer.

TRUTH Official Met Office data shows no statistically significant global temperature rise since January 1997. The fact was confirmed last week by Raj Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel  on Climate Change (IPCC). Many scientists say this means forecasts of how much warmer the world will be by 2100 must be revised downwards. Pachauri disagreed: for him to be convinced, the ‘pause’ would have to last 30 years.

MYTH Global warming is already causing extreme weather.

TRUTH If anything, weather has become less, not more extreme in the past 50 years. Professor Roger Pielke Jr of Colorado University – no climate sceptic – last week said that the past seven years had been the longest period ever recorded without a Category 3 or stronger hurricane hitting America, and that drought  has decreased since the  mid-20th Century. The IPCC admits  there is no evidence that global warming has caused more storms  in the tropics.

MYTH If we don’t take swift, drastic action to cut CO2 emissions, the world will soon become uninhabitable

TRUTH The ‘pause’ in rising temperatures, along with new research into the decline in the sun’s output and other natural factors, is leading many scientists to lower estimates of how fast carbon dioxide warms the world. Until now, the IPCC has suggested that doubling CO2 causes a worrying increase of 3.5C, but many experts say it is about 1.7C. The computer models still say the world will be at least 2C warmer by the end of the century, but they failed to predict the pause.

MYTH We’ve got to do our bit, even if it hurts. If we cut emissions, the rest of the  world will follow.

TRUTH The fiasco of the 2009 UN climate conference in Copenhagen proved that China, India, Brazil and other fast-growing nations are simply not prepared to make any binding commitments to reduce their emissions. However, by cutting our own ever more deeply, all we do is increase the already rocketing price of our energy and so drive jobs abroad – while making almost no difference to world CO2 levels.

MYTH The faster we cut carbon in our power generation, the more prosperous we will be.

TRUTH We face declining energy capacity, while the Government targets on 2030 emissions would mean few firms will be willing to invest in the one proven type of power source – gas – that can fill the gap relatively cheaply. Instead of  ‘green growth’, we face years of impoverished stagnation, while industry flees Britain and our  sky-high energy prices.

MYTH The Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in a few years.

TRUTH Although last summer saw a return to the relatively low levels of ice seen in 2007, the growth of Arctic winter ice this year is the fastest on record. Canadian archaeologists have been finding evidence the ice cover shrank to half its current extent during a warm period 7,000 years ago – but never vanished entirely.

Much more here

One day, turning off the lights won't be up to you

Britain's governments have taken suicidal gambles with our energy supplies

Readers of this column might have been astonished by the media response last week to that warning by Alistair Buchanan, retiring head of the energy regulator Ofgem, that next month we will see the closure of five major coal-fired power stations that between them contribute nearly a sixth of the UK’s average electricity needs.

Over the next few years, Mr Buchanan feared, we will be dangerously close to not having enough power in the grid to keep Britain’s lights on.

I have been trying to explain this here for so long that my readers may be weary of it. It was back in 2006 that I first reported on why, within a decade or so, we might see Britain’s lights going out. In fact, as I set out in my book, The Real Global Warming Disaster, in 2009, the writing was already on the wall in the government’s energy White Paper of 2003. Tony Blair signed us up to an energy policy centred on building thousands of windmills, already fully aware that we would be losing many of our coal-fired power stations due to an EU anti-pollution directive, and that we were unlikely to build any new nuclear power stations to replace those that by now would be nearing the end of their life.

This made a nonsense of Mr Buchanan’s claim in a vacuous interview with Evan Davis, on Tuesday’s Today programme on Radio 4, that everything was fine with Britain’s “visionary” energy policy until we were hit by that “financial tsunami” in 2008. This prompted Mr Davis to comment, “So we can blame the bankers for it, as we normally do”. (Nine months earlier I had written a column headed, “When the lights go out, you’ll know who to blame” – it wasn’t the bankers.)

The most interesting passage in Mr Buchanan’s interview was where he began hinting at what has recently been emerging as a terrifying new element in the Government’s energy policy. It well knows that electricity from the tens of thousands more wind turbines it hopes to see built in the coming years will cost between two and four times as much as that from conventional power stations. Its solution to this is to rig the market with new taxes and other devices so that this will make electricity from wind farms somehow seem competitive – not by making wind cheaper but by doubling the cost of electricity from the gas, coal and nuclear power stations that still provide virtually all the electricity we need to keep our lights on.

Around lunchtime last Monday, for instance, National Grid was showing that all our 4,300 wind turbines put together were providing barely a thousandth of the power we were using, 0.1 per cent, or a paltry 31MW (as compared with the 2,200MW we can get from a single gas-fired plant).

The harsh fact is that successive governments in the past 10 years have staked our national future on two utterly suicidal gambles. First, they have fallen for the delusion that we can depend for nearly a third of our future power on those useless and unreliable windmills – which will require a dozen or more new gas-fired power stations just to provide back-up for when the wind is not blowing.

Yet, at the same time, by devices such as the increasingly punitive “carbon tax” due to come into force on April 1, they plan to double the cost of the electricity we get from grown-up power stations, which can only have the effect in the coming years of doubling our electricity bills, driving millions more households into fuel poverty.

If our government were not lost in a bubble of complete make-believe, it would keep open those coal-fired power stations the EU is forcing us to close next month (although it may be too late), it would stop subsidising grotesquely expensive wind farms, and it would go flat out to exploit Britain’s vast reserves of the shale gas that has more than halved US gas prices in four years.

But we do not have such a government. Our lights will go out, our economy will suffer a catastrophe, our bills will double, and tens of thousands more people will die of cold in those freezing winters that our politicians were somehow fooled into believing would never come again.


Wind farms will create more carbon dioxide, say scientists

Thousands of Britain’s wind turbines will create more greenhouse gases than they save, according to potentially devastating scientific research to be published later this year.

The finding, which threatens the entire rationale of the onshore wind farm industry, will be made by Scottish government-funded researchers who devised the standard method used by developers to calculate “carbon payback time” for wind farms on peat soils.

Wind farms are typically built on upland sites, where peat soil is common. In Scotland alone, two thirds of all planned onshore wind development is on peatland. England and Wales also have large numbers of current or proposed peatland wind farms.

But peat is also a massive store of carbon, described as Europe’s equivalent of the tropical rainforest. Peat bogs contain and absorb carbon in the same way as trees and plants — but in much higher quantities.

British peatland stores at least 3.2 billion tons of carbon, making it by far the country’s most important carbon sink and among the most important in the world.

Wind farms, and the miles of new roads and tracks needed to service them, damage or destroy the peat and cause significant loss of carbon to the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.

Writing in the scientific journal Nature, the scientists, Dr Jo Smith, Dr Dali Nayak and Prof Pete Smith, of Aberdeen University, say: “We contend that wind farms on peatlands will probably not reduce emissions …we suggest that the construction of wind farms on non-degraded peats should always be avoided.”

Dr Nayak told The Telegraph: “Our full paper is not yet published, but we should definitely be worried about this. If the peatland is already degraded, there is no problem. But if it is in good condition, we should avoid it.”

Another peat scientist, Richard Lindsay of the University of East London, said: “If we are concerned about CO2, we shouldn’t be worrying first about the rainforests, we should be worrying about peatlands.

“The world’s peatlands have four times the amount of carbon than all the world’s rainforests. But they are a Cinderella habitat, completely invisible to decision- makers.”

One typical large peat site just approved in southern Scotland, the Kilgallioch wind farm, includes 43 miles of roads and tracks. Peat only retains its carbon if it is moist, but the roads and tracks block the passage of the water.

The wind industry insists that it increasingly builds “floating roads,” where rock is piled on a textile surface without disturbing the peat underneath.

But Mr Lindsay said: “Peat has less solids in it than milk. The roads inevitably sink, that then causes huge areas of peatland to dry out and the carbon is released.”

Mr Lindsay said that more than half of all British onshore wind development, current and planned, is on peat soils.

In 2011 the Scottish government’s nature protection body, Scottish Natural Heritage, said 67 per cent of planned onshore wind development in Scotland would be on peatland.

Struan Stevenson, the Tory MEP for Scotland who has campaigned on the issue, said: “This is a devastating blow for the wind factory industry from which I hope it will not recover.

"The Scottish government cannot realise their plans for wind farms without allowing the ruination of peat bogs, so they are trying to brush this problem under the carpet.

"This is just another way in which wind power is a scam. It couldn’t exist without subsidy. It is driving industry out of Britain and driving people into fuel poverty.”

Scotland’s SNP government has led a strong charge for wind power, promising that 100 per cent of the country’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources.

But even its environment minister, Stewart Stevenson, admits: “Scotland has 15 per cent of the world’s blanket bog.

"Even a small proportion of the carbon stored in peatlands, if lost by erosion and drainage, could add significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions.”

In 2008 Dr Smith, Dr Nayak and Prof Smith devised the standard “carbon payback time” calculator used by the wind farm industry to assess the CO2 impact of developments on peat soils.

“Large peatland wind farms introduce high potential for their expected CO2 savings to be cancelled out by release of greenhouse gases stored in the peat,” they said.

“Emission savings are achieved by wind power only after the carbon payback time has elapsed, and if this exceeds the lifetime of the wind farm, no carbon benefits will be realised.”

Even the initial version of the calculator found that the carbon cost of a badly sited peat wind farm — on a sloping site, resulting in more drainage of the peat, and without restoration afterwards — was so high that it would take 23 years before it provided any CO2 benefit. The typical life of a wind farm is only 25 years.

The researchers initially believed that well-managed and well-sited peatland wind farms could still cut greenhouse gas emissions, over time, compared to electricity generation overall.

But now they say that the shrinking use of fossil fuels in overall electricity generation has changed the equation, making the comparison less favourable to all peatland wind farms.

“Our previous work argued that most peatland sites could save on net [CO2] emissions,” they said. “But emissions factors [in UK electricity generation as a whole] are likely to drop significantly in the future.

"As a result, peatland sites would be less likely to generate a reduction in carbon emissions, even with careful management.”

The significance of the Aberdeen researchers’ work is increased by the fact that they are funded by the Scottish government and are broadly pro-wind.

They wrote in a previous paper that “it is important that wind farm developments should not be discouraged unnecessarily because they are a key requirement for delivery of the Scottish government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

Helen McDade, from the John Muir Trust, which campaigns to protect wild land, said: “Much of the cheap land being targeted by developers desperate to cash in on wind farm subsidies is peatland in remote wild land areas of the UK.

"This statement, from the academic team who developed the carbon calculator for the Scottish government, is a timely reminder that we must have independent and scientific assessment of the effects of policy and subsidies.”

The wind industry insisted that the impact of properly managed wind farms on peat and carbon emissions was minimal. Niall Stuart, director of Scottish Renewables, a trade association, said that damaged peatland could be restored in as little as a year.

He said the association had signed a “statement of good practice principles” with environmental groups promising that “every reasonable effort” will be made to avoid “significant adverse environmental effects” on peatland, including “properly planned and managed habitat restoration”.

Jennifer Webber, a spokesman for RenewableUK, the industry lobbying group, said: “Wind farms continue to be an important tool in decarbonisation and energy independence, with actual measurements showing wind displacing gas from the system. This is why they retain support from environmental organisations.”


Emails show EPA collaboration with media 'friendlies'

Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have released a second batch of emails to and from former Administrator Lisa Jackson using the false name of "Richard Windsor" in apparent violation of federal transparency laws and regulations.

The new emails reveal Jackson and other top EPA officials devoting extensive attention to and cooperation with media, public officials and other "friendlies" whose coverage and commentary put the agency's policies and leadership in a positive light.

The new release also contains page after page of emails in which all or most of the information is redacted on the basis of an EPA claim that it was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act's fifth, or "deliberative process," exemption.

That exemption permits, but does not require, withholding of documents created as part of the decision process leading to adoption of a specific agency policy or program.

The agency posted the new batch of Richard Windsor emails Friday evening as President Obama prepared for a weekend golf vacation in Florida on a trip from which White House reporters were barred.

Earlier in the week last week, Obama described his tenure in the White House as "the most transparent administration in history."

The Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank had filed FOIA requests for all emails to or from Jackson using the false name. The illegal emails - federal law bars use of false names in email or other communication regarding official business - were ordered to be made public by a federal court in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the agency by the conservative group.

In ordering the agency to release an estimated 12,000 Richard Windsor emails to CEI in four separate tranches, the court rejected an EPA attempt to withhold all of the controversial emails from public disclosure. The first tranche was made public in January. The agency witheld 900 emails from the first batch without providing an explanation.

Jackson announced her plan to resign in December, 2012 shortly after the court ruled the Richard Windsor emails had to be released to CEI.

The existence of the illegal emails was discovered by CEI senior fellow Christopher Horner while researching his recently published book entitled "The Liberal War Against Transparency."

Christopher Horner, a CEI senior fellow, told The Washington Examiner that the think tank estimates that 85 percent of the emails released Friday were redacted under the FOIA's fifth exemption. An EPA spokesman has been asked for a comment for this news story.

In one of the emails to "Richard Windsor," Andy Adora, then Jackson's press secretary, told the EPA head that an eagerly anticipated Washington Post news story had been delayed. Adora told Jackson she "can't decide if she's losing a battle w her editors or if they're taking extra time to make this a bigger story." An apparently disappointed Jackson responded as "Richard Windsor," saying "Yeesh."

Adora is now a press secretary at the U.S. Department of Justice.

In another of the legible Richard Windsor emails, Jackson corresponded with an associate EPA administrator about her eagerness to see herself on the cover of Rolling Stone for an article that described her as "the eco-warrior" and "the most progressive EPA chief in history."

In a third of the legible Richard Windsor emails, Jackson expressed her elation at being included by NBC's The Grio among its top 100 African-American history makers: "When you go to the Grio's website, I'm right there. Cool. Thanks to whoever worked this. Let's do something fun on it. CNN just did a feature on the top 100."

EPA officials will have to explain to the federal court how the Adora, Rolling Stone cover and Grio Top 100 emails, as well as each of the hundreds of other emails redacted under the deliberative process exemption of the FOIA, were integral parts of the agency's policy-making process.

Transparency in government experts often point to such tactics by federal officials as examples of how FOIA regulations can be used to delay making public embarrassing documents.


Obama's anti-stimulus energy policies take money out of economy

"I have to tell you that there are some Democrats, for example, who represent states or districts that are heavily reliant on old power plants and are more heavily manufacturing based," President Obama said during a Google online chat session with the public on Friday. "And the truth is that if you produce power using old power plants, you're going to be emitting more carbon, but, to upgrade those plants means energy is going to be a little more expensive, at least on the front end."

Naturally, Obama understated the costs involved in upgrading power plants and switching to new sources of energy. But his remark is true in its essentials: In exchange for very modest reductions in carbon emissions, his policies require consumers to pay higher upfront prices for electricity.

Now compare Obama's statement to the theory behind his stimulus package -- both the $800 billion package he championed and signed in 2009 and the additional stimulus he has since asked Congress to enact. The assumption underlying his proposed and enacted deficit spending, expansion of entitlements (such as food stamps) and demand-side tax breaks as stimulus is that Americans have a temporary cash-flow problem. The idea is that because people don't have enough money in their pockets, commerce is suffering, causing hiring to lag. So by providing a small pay increase to workers and extra business for contractors, the Recovery Administration was supposedly alleviating this temporary cash crunch so as to ease the economy back onto the road to recovery.

Apparently, though, the one hand in Obama's White House doesn't know what the other is doing. Because even as "stimulus Obama" talks about putting more money in people's pockets, "green-energy Obama" is demanding that Congress un-stimulate the economy by burdening Americans with the large upfront costs. As Obama put it on Friday, it's his job to convince people to "take actions now where the benefits are going to be coming down the road -- or at least avoiding big problems down the road -- and it's hard when people are thinking about day to day issues." Indeed.

The Institute for Energy Research predicts that new EPA rules on mercury and cross-state pollution targeting old power plants will shut down 34 gigawatts of coal-fired production capacity, or 10 percent of the U.S. total. Those burdened most by the energy price increases resulting from these rules -- as with the price hikes that result from Obama's more ambitious plans for carbon reduction -- will be the poor, who already spend a greater percentage of their income on energy than those who are more affluent.

Obama's energy and economic policies are thus incoherent and working at cross-purposes. He acknowledges yet fails to appreciate the trade-offs involved in carbon rationing and other environmental regulations. If you wonder at the stimulus' failure to put the economy back on track in spite of such large expenditures, this contradiction explains it all. How can Obama maintain that the economy is stuck because middle and lower-income Americans don't have enough money in their pockets, then at the same time enact policies that guarantee they will have even less money in their pockets? What good is it to inject billions into the economy via government, only to have them taken out again through government-mandated increases in the price of electricity?


No winners in Obama's green-energy trade war

"As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy," President Obama said in last week's State of the Union Address, "so must we."

Obama has thrust the U.S. into an arms race in green-energy subsidies. To grasp the difficulty - or perhaps futility - of such a contest, look at SolarWorld, the subsidized German manufacturer now drowning in a sea of cheap Chinese panels.

Bonn-based SolarWorld has benefitted nicely from German solar subsidies for years. In 2008, the company opened U.S. operations in Oregon, with help from local politicians.

Oregon offered SolarWorld up to $100 million in renewable energy tax credits. Boris Klebensberger, the company's COO, asked for more. The Oregonian reported at the time: "Klebensberger, calling the right to have renewable energy a 'civil right,' urged Oregonians to push for more government support and incentives for the sector."

At that time, an interviewer with GreenTech Media asked Klebensberger: "U.S. incentives aren't as generous as in Germany. Are you concerned about the ability to succeed in this regulatory environment?"

"That is one of the problems in America," Klebensberger responded

Obama's election made the U.S. incentives more generous. In 2009, the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency, approved $61.0 million in loan guarantees for SolarWorld to sell solar panels in South Korea.

On Earth Day 2010, while announcing "Solar Express" - an expedited process for subsidizing solar panel exports - Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg toured SolarWorld's California factory.

Later in 2010 the Obama administration announced SolarWorld was eligible for an $82.2 million Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit.

Despite all this help, the company has faltered. In early September 2011, SolarWorld announced it was ending all manufacturing in its its California plant and laying off 186 of its 300 employees there. The Oregonian reported that an industry analyst said of the Oregon plant " 'To be honest, it's just a matter of time' before the plant sees job losses given China's pressure on prices."

Two weeks later, the Obama administration gave the company another hand. The Department of Energy awarded a $2.3 million stimulus grant to SolarWorld to study new manufacturing techniques for solar panels.

September was fruitful for the SolarWorld-Obama relationship: On the 30th of the month, Ex-Im approved an $18.9 million direct loan, at a low 2.63% rate, to an Indian power company buying SolarWorld panels.

Meanwhile, states and the federal government provide plenty of other subsidies for SolarWorld's customers. If you installed solar panels on the roof of your corner store in recent years, you could get a stimulus grant from the Treasury. Generate electricity with solar panels, and you can get the production tax credit. Many states require their utilities to buy solar- and wind-generated power.

But still, the profits don't flow. In recent weeks SolarWolrd announced it was laying off more than a third of the workers at its flagship Oregon factory. The company is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and its stock is plummeting.

As a result SolarWorld has pocketed only $27 million of its $100 million in state tax credits, according to company spokesman Ben Santarris. If you don't make profits, you don't owe tax credits, and thus you can't benefit from tax credits. SolarWorld never got any federal tax credits, for the same reason.

Why can't SolarWorld - or Solyndra before it - turn a profit? Because the Chinese sell their solar panels for much cheaper. Chinese labor is cheaper, but U.S. solar companies like SolarWorld also charge that China "cheats."

China subsidizes its solar manufacturing and exporting even more than the U.S. does. This allegedly allows it to "dump" panels in Europe and the U.S., helping China kill U.S. competitors and thus corner the market. Santarris calls it "mercantilism."

Obama's Commerce Department, three weeks before the election, announced retaliatory tariffs against the Chinese solar industry.

But if Obama wants "affordable renewable energy," as he says, why doesn't he welcome cheap solar panels subsidized by the poor people of China. Cheaper energy means more disposable income and cheaper manufacturing, freeing up consumer spending and thus creating new jobs.

But Obama doesn't just want affordable solar energy, nor does he simply want jobs - he insists on solar jobs. That means more subsidies and tariffs.

Taxpayers and consumers pay the price for these policies. The benefit goes to companies like SolarWorld, which still can't turn a profit. You have to wonder if this trade war is a war worth fighting.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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